Parmesan cheese is possibly the most popular Italian cheese, at least here in the States. It’s no wonder that we want to know if we can freeze parmesan cheese to extend it’s usefulness as long as possible.
Unfortunately, not all cheeses freeze the same. Some freeze well for extended lengths of time and others not so much. Parmesan or Parmesan Reggiano is not a freezer-friendly cheese, however that doesn’t mean you can’t freeze it at all.
Whether you freeze it in blocks, slices, shredded, or grated, it’s important to understand a few rules of thumb so you can get the most out of your parmesan.
Parmesan Doesn’t Contain Enough Moisture to Freeze Properly
Parmesan cheese is a hard, dry cheese that doesn’t contain enough moisture for it to freeze properly long term. Because of this, when your parmesan is thawed, you’re left with a different consistency than when you first froze it.
So if you’re tempted to store your cheese in the freezer, consider first how you plan on using it once thawed. For example, expectations for using it as an antipasto (not recommended after freezing) vs as an ingredient in a soup or even as a pizza topping are important to know whether you should freeze or how at least in what quantity.
In case you’re wondering, there can be a difference between parmesan and parmesan reggiano, however for the purposes of this blog post, I’m using the terms interchangeably. The Spruce Eats explains the differences here if you’re interested.
Can You Freeze Grated or Shredded Parmesan Cheese?
Grated or shredded parmesan cheese is already exposed to air due to it’s size and shape, and won’t freeze as well as a solid block of parm. But yes, it’s possible to freeze grated parmesan cheese.
It will stay in good condition for about 3 months in the freezer, but once you thaw it, you’ll have to use it quickly, and expect to loose some of the taste and freshness than if you were to keep it in the refrigerator.
To freeze it in it’s grated or shredded form, you must store the cheese in an air-free/vacuum packed freezer bag or air tight container, I prefer glass containers. Some people recommend wrapping the plastic-wrapped cheese in foil to further prevent air from reaching the cheese through the plastic.
Don’t forget to mark the bag with the date and name of the contents.
Can You Freeze a Block of Fresh Parmesan Cheese?
Fresh parmesan can be frozen for up to a year or possibly more if frozen correctly.
I believe freezing a block of parmesan or parmesan reggiano cheese is best if you’re going to freeze it at all. Less moisture will penetrate the block and may help keep more of the taste and texture.
If you want to store it in the freezer, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap before putting it in an airtight container. This will help keep out moisture while keeping your parmesan fresh at room temperature.
However, if you know you will be only needing a little parmesan here and there, try freezing in slightly smaller blocks so you only need to pull out what you need when you need it.
Can You Freeze Sliced Parmesan Cheese
Sliced parmesan may freeze better than block or grated, simply because it is processed and not in it’s raw fresh form. Think of the packages of sliced cheeses for sandwiches. Not exactly the same as taking a slice right out of a beautiful block of the cheese.
However, the best way to use sliced parmesan cheese from a fresh block of cheese is to do it while it is fresh, not frozen and thawed.
Thawing Parmesan Cheese
When thawing fresh parmesan cheese, do so in the refrigerator. Do not expect to use it the same for shavings or slices as the texture and consistency has now been altered due to the freezing process with the protein molecules.
You will find that it will more easily crumble and holding it to a handheld grater will be frustrating at best as it crumbles in your hand.
What I recommend is to pull out your cuisinart and use the grater disc to turn the block into grated cheese which you can then use as needed.
I do this also with Romano cheese which also has the same effect when thawed.
Freezing and Fresh are not the Same
Freezing will impair the structure and consistency of fresh parmesan. It changes the texture as described above, and can also weaken the taste.
This is not to say you should never freeze this cheese, but to expect it to remain the same is not realistic (unfortunately). Freezing just simply isn’t ideal for long-term storage. If you really want long term storage, buy it with the rind around the entire block and store in a cool, dry area like the artisans.
Otherwise, know the limits of your cheese and plan accordingly!